Disclaimer: Don't Own, Don't Sue.
Summary: One question, one answer, it can lead to one circle of requests.
Chapter one: War?
"What is war anyway?"
Those words, simple as they were, echoed through Harry Potter's head like a badly played broken record. His Uncle had said them, not in the way Harry heard them, for the man had added a few colorful words and a lot of 'freaks' to them. In a generalized statement, his question was "What is war to you freaks anyway? You probably know nothing of war, not freaks like that, you, anyway."
Outside in the darkening night of the longest day of the year rain sleeted down like broken weaves of a stringy quilt. Sighing, the scarred boy pressed his forehead against the glass, allowing his breath to fog up and down slightly, and the cold touch of bitter glass to grapple his forehead, his scar.
The conversation he had just held with his family, one out of necessity, not choice, was one Harry never thought would haunt him so. In a world of wizards, where magic was the key component to almost all, how was it that a few muggles, muggles that hated magic with a passion no less, could speak the few words to befuddle a wizard so much? He knew, in the front of his mind, that there were probably written texts somewhere that only his best friend Hermione could find, defining war in the proper essence.
Yet, somehow that wasn't good enough.
What was war?
His demented cousin, Dudley, had said it was "annihilation." A way of destroying all those that don't believe in the same ideas but want their idea to be the only one. Odd how close to home the boy touched. Voldemort and Dumbledore. The two opposing sides. One wanting what the other despised. Annihilation was chess, take out all the other person's pieces, and you'll be sure to win.
Uncle Vernon hadn't helped much when his son said annihilation. He cracked an ugly smile, one to rival that of Voldemort's himself, and said that possibly a war among wizards was a way of doing a complete genocide.
"Obviously if you freaks are always hiding, and I imagine," shudder, "you have ways of keeping things…secret," three shudders, "that there'd be no way to kill you off. Which is what you freaks need. Plaguing and using our world like a playing ground." All this time, all these years of harboring a wizard in their home, was just somehow not enough to convince Uncle Vernon of the purity behind magic, and even that it was real. "So what better way to get rid of all of you then to turn you on yourselves. Only way to be rid of you. What do you know about war anyway? What is war to you freaks..."
Harry thumped his head against the glass somewhat. Damnit, he thought, it just didn't make sense. Like everyone's opinion of war was different, and it was only theirs that matter. War equaled violence. War equaled peace. War equaled genocide. War equaled war. No way of escaping the confusion.
"Why does it matter?" Hermione had asked over a letter. "War is war, Harry, and it's better to be on the right side than the wrong."
"Mate, c'mon," Ron had scribbled. "You're worried about trivial things, really. War? Why ask what war is? Does it matter? Best be on the winning side rather than the losing in my opinion, and to get that you can't question war, just have to go along."
Funny, Harry mused, his two best friends had said exactly the same thing except for one major difference. Ron said it was better to be on the winning side, Hermione said it was better to be on the right side. Were they the same?
"See Dumbledore!" Harry suddenly snarled to the glass of the window that reflected his appearance of a messy haired boy. "This is what you get!" he stepped back and thrust out his arms. "When you send me to live in the darkness of summer at my boring relatives house. You get me," he lowered his voice, as if conspiring. "Questioning."
Swearing quietly, he dropped his arms to his sides, and fell backwards onto his bed. The ceiling greeted him with a dull rush of balanced cream white, filling a whole void of confusion, frustration, and curiosity with its bleakness. As if that was its output for life. Dull.
It wasn't really a matter of killing anyone, or the question 'what do you do when you know you have to kill someone?' No, it was different now. It was 'what do you do when you know someone shouldn't be alive?' War was like that in a way, right? Simple, yet complex, questions turned into tricky, impossible questions. People turned, morals changed, philosophies alerted slightly or drastically.
Shaking his head, Harry rolled over and dug his face into a pillow. "They just don't understand magic, they're muggles. It's different. Isn't it?" he didn't wait for the pillow to respond before flipping back other. "What is war to you freaks anyway?" his Uncle's words sound foreign and dangerous on his tongue.
Briefly closing his eyes, he opened them up to the cream ceiling one more time.
"Why?" he said softly. "Isn't it same thing? People fighting peoples'…other ideas?" Sighing for the umpteenth time that night, Harry closed his eyes one last time, and muttering something unintelligible beneath his breath, he rolled over to fall into a restless slumber.
"Is there a difference between life and death? When you live, you live to die, but when you die, you die to live. Is the only difference in the change of the words, for if it is, than I'd just prefer to remain in the former for the time being. Maybe till three o'clock…" Snape mused over his cup of tea as he sat in the brightly bathed office of the Headmaster.
"Why, Severus, you're your happy self," Albus Dumbledore chuckled. "Been a long time since you've questioned life…something happened with Riddle?"
"He killed some more muggles for sport," the hooked nose man winced slightly at the memory. "One of them, a man, sturdy, said some last words that I think even bothered The Dark Lord." Dumbledore leaned forward, intrigued. Nothing bothered Riddle other than he, himself, Dumbledore.
"What did he say?" Dumbledore finally sighed upon realizing that Snape was going to hold out on telling him as his only form of secure taunt that he could play without being disrespectful.
"You've only got a hundred years to live," Snape informed with a strained voice. Why did that bother him? He didn't know. Wizards lives for hundreds of years, but the muggle's voice, his surety, his tone, his eyes…it was like dooming them to a life of mortality. Something Snape embraced, yet something Voldemort hid from.
"Odd words," Dumbledore stated quietly as he sat down, his fingers folding onto one another as he sat back. "Mortality is a fickle thing," the old wizard stated quickly, as if reading Snape's mind. "No one really wants to die, but they know they will, so they can only dream of immortality as their only escape from death. The thing is, however, it won't happen. It's just a dream."
"Dreams are what make people live," Snape pointed out, horribly to out of context to his usual demeanor. But dreams were something his sister used to speak of, something…of a memory he liked to cling to.
"Yes, that they are," the old man bowed his bearded head in acknowledgement. Then, suddenly, there was a crack and a wrinkle house elf appeared with over-bright eyes and a long, pointy nose. One long enough, Snape mused, to rival Cyrano de Bergerac's.
Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling, leaned over and allowed the house elf to whisper quietly in his ear, though Snape was wondering how the elf's nose didn't point the respectable old man in the ear. Finally, Albus arose, nodded at the house elf, and turned his attention back onto his guest. Though neither male failed to miss the house elf's glare in Snape's general direction.
"Why do the hose elves hate me so?" Snape asked the Headmaster, who let a small smile break his bearded cheeks.
"Why, I think possibly, it's because every time they try to help you by putting an extra pillow beneath your head, or a blanket atop you body, or give you some form of hot tea when you, yourself, fail to realize you're illness…it just tends to all end up on the floor." The man shook his head sadly but the twinkle and the smile never left. "You put them in right fit, you know that, when you do that."
Snape just snarled something under his breath that Dumbledore, if he heard, chose to not acknowledge. "What do you want me to do Albus?" Snape finally, grudgingly, sighed.
"Why, dear boy, do you think I want you do anything?" the old man never lost his knowing twinkle.
"Mainly because you have yet to bring up the schedule for the coming school year late, clearly indicating that that meeting is for another time, and when our eyes meet you're the first to advert them. Plus," Snape glared slightly, a bit beyond the Headmaster, but in the proximity. "You're left eye twitches when you have a request that you want to get out in the open but refuse to do so until the opportune time."
The old man chuckled softly, gently rubbing his left eye with a wrinkled old hand. "My, my, you might just spend too much time doing this job of yours," he was clearly indicating spying.
"Or just with you," Snape mumbled quietly beneath his breath.
"Possibly," Dumbledore agreed. "However, I'm sure your observations will have made Sherlock Holmes proud…"
"You read too many muggle books."
"Hmm…I guess you assumed correctly, my dear boy, I do have a request." There was a pause. A pregnant one, a sort of shift in the taunting. Dumbledore was now holding out on Snape, rather than the other way round. The only problem was Snape was rather fond of keeping requests away from his ears for as long as he possibly could.
"Nice weather we're having," Snape snarled in a voice that said he could give a damn about the weather. He was just proving a point.
"You win," Albus finally sighed. "You'll not be fond of the request, Severus, but at the time I do believe you're the only adequate enough to do so. Possibly Alaster Moody—but no, I trust you more for this." Pride. The old man was going with trust, which gave Severus this odd sense of honor. Then again, he also knew that Dumbledore was just working him up.
He didn't mind though. Flattery wasn't horrible for the soul, now was it?
Then the obvious hit him, the blunt truth of the subtleties, the flattery, the edging around the topic at hand.
Harry bloody Potter.
"No," Snape stood up instantly, the chair scraping out from beneath his legs. "I refuse. I won't do anything for that brat ever again."
"It's not that," Dumbledore protested lazily. "I just want you to tutor him." Somehow that incensed Snape even more than before.
"Tell me Albus," he dug his palms onto the old man's desk, leaning forward with a menace to his tone. Not toward the elder though, but to the boy, the suggestion, in general. "Why should the golden child get special treatment? It'll teach him nothing of life or of consequences. If he failed to get into a class, especially mine, than it's his own damn fault and I refuse to give him any ease way."
"That's good to hear," Albus nodded. "Harry's never been given ease way on his classes, what he gets is what he earns. I do not mean for you to teach him in something to deal with school." Snape straightened up, startled.
Rarely did a man of Snape's nature get startled, but Dumbledore's words had done just that. He drew back a step and sat down once again, studying the old wizard before him with a hint of intrigue that was quietly hidden behind indifference.
"Yes?" he drawled slowly. Though he had a good idea in mind of what this 'tutoring' required. Best to hear the old man out though, it tended to make him happy.
A/N: R&R PLEASE